Aerika Williams is a parent to a student at South River Elementary School who would, based on current district lines, go to Montevideo Middle School.
A proposal to send students at Montevideo Middle School to Elkton Middle School beginning in fall 2020, has Williams concerned.
Williams has a job in Augusta County and getting from there to Grottoes, where South River Elementary is located, or to Montevideo Middle School in Penn Laird, takes between 15 and 20 minutes. If she’s called to pick up her son because he’s sick, it doesn’t take Williams very long to get to him.
However, on a good day, it takes about 45 minutes for Williams to get to Elkton, traveling on U.S. 340.
“We based our jobs and where we bought our house based on,” the current school districts, Williams said. “Elkton Middle is a significant difference, it’s traveling twice as far away.”
Williams is one of many parents concerned about the possible redistricting of the Spotswood district, which will affect 365 students, because of crowding in that part of the county.
Due to population growth in the urban development area east of Harrisonburg, Montevideo Middle School is overcrowded and Spotswood High School is nearing capacity.
Currently, Montevideo is overcapacity by 28 students and Spotswood has room for another 33.
It was announced at a Nov. 11 meeting in Elkton that Superintendent Oskar Scheikl was recommending to the Rockingham County School Board that redistricting take place in order to alleviate the crowding, which will only get worse over the next five years.
It was recommended the school board make a decision as early as January on how to proceed. No decision has been made currently regarding redistricting.
Williams started a petition asking the board not to redistrict that currently has 1,070 signatures. She’s spoken at public meetings, which will continue through February.
Parents are upset about so many big changes coming quickly, and seemingly over a short period of time, Williams said.
“It took the school board five years to roll out Chromebooks in all the schools, but six to eight months to make these huge decisions,” she said.
Along with redistricting, the school board is considering implementing staggered start times for the elementary schools verses the middle schools, which also present child-care issues for working parents.
Williams said she is encouraging parents to email school board members and do their research.
One of the biggest questions on parents’ minds is about grandfathering — which students will be allowed to stay at their current school based on how long they’ve been there?
Rising seniors will most definitely be allowed to graduate at the high school they started at three years prior, Scheikl said. He added that he would be “shocked” if grandfathering stopped there.
Alisa Randolph is a parent to a rising senior at Spotswood High School. While there is little chance her daughter would be redistricted to East Rockingham High School, she is concerned until the decision is formally made.
“There has to be a better plan to come up with than sending our children to a different school knowing all the friendships they have made throughout the years in the school district we are in now,” Randolph said.
As far as grandfathering rules, parents will have to wait until the time when the school board takes a vote on redistricting, Scheikl said.
The vote on redistricting will likely come in January, but it’s possible it could be February. At the same time the board will make a recommendation about grandfathering.
Scheikl said rumors that redistricting will cost East Rockingham High School its honors classes are not true, and most likely arose from a separate conversation the board has been having about the structure of honors classes at the high schools.
The school board met in Grottoes on Monday and the board had a chance to hear from residents about redistricting and other matters. One topic that got brought up was the impact a school change could have on students’ mental health.
“I imagine there would be a variety of effects,” Scheikl said, and the school division is researching that.
For instance, if a rising eighth-grader was to be sent from Montevideo Middle School to Elkton Middle School and then attended East Rockingham High School, they would have attended three different schools in three years. It’s these scenarios the school board is looking into to see what can be done to make a possible change easier for everyone.
On the Rockingham County Public Schools’ website, there is a survey where parents can submit questions. The division has received over 150 submissions. Although there are duplicates.
Scheikl has posted a basic FAQ on the website, but plans to update the website on Monday to better address parent, student and community questions.